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TrustRank revisited: do search engines trust your website?

In 2004, Yahoo engineers published a document about TrustRank. TrustRank describes an algorithm that search engines can use to determine relevant search results.

In contrast to the original PageRank algorithm, TrustRank does not solely count the number of links that point to a website but it also considers the authority of a website.

TrustRank was meant to fight spam in the search results

The abstract of the publication shows that PageRank was meant as a way to fight web spam:

"Web spam pages use various techniques to achieve higher-than-deserved rankings in a search engine's results. While human experts can identify spam, it is too expensive to manually evaluate a large number of pages. Instead, we propose techniques to semi-automatically separate reputable, good pages from spam.

We first select a small set of seed pages to be evaluated by an expert. Once we manually identify the reputable seed pages, we use the link structure of the web to discover other pages that are likely to be good [...]

Our results show that we can effectively filter out spam from a significant fraction of the web, based on a good seed set of less than 200 sites."

Today, all major search engines use some kind of TrustRank

Although Google does not use the official term, most professional search engine optimizers are quite sure that Google and all other major search engines use the same concept to improve the quality of their search results.

That means that it is not enough to get as many links as possible. It is also necessary that your website gets links from the right kind of websites and that search engines trust your site.

How to become a trusted website

There are a few things that you can do to show search engines that your website is trustworthy:

1. Get links from seed sites or from websites that are linked from seed sites

Seed sites are websites that are manually marked as trustworthy by the search engine owners. For example, if has been chosen as a seed website by the search engine a link from will have a positive effect on the TrustRank of your website.

If links to website X, website X links to website Y and website Y links to your website then your website will still get a good TrustRank.

2. Get an old domain name with a good domain history

The older your domain is, the better. If your domain has been online for several years, this is a signal that the website owner is serious about the site and it's less likely that the domain is used for spamming purposes.

Your domain name should not have changed the owner too often and it should not have been used for many different topics. Of course, it also should not have been used by spammers in the past.

3. Get links from related websites

Does your website get links from related websites and does it link to other related websites? Is your website a lonely island with no links from and to other websites or is it integrated in a network that deals with a special topic?

4. Don't link to spam websites

You should not link to websites that are known spammers or to websites with dubious quality. If you link to such a website, you show search engines that you support them and that your own website should not be trusted too much.

5. Get many links from social networks

The more often your website is mentioned on social media websites, the more likely it is that your website is a trustworthy high quality website. The more votes your bookmarks on social media sites get, the better.

6. Offer good content and stay away from certain topics

It is not likely that a website that consists of only one page is an authority website. If your website has many pages that contain great content about a special topic then it is much easier to get a good TrustRank.

If your website deals with a special topic, then it's likely that it never will get a high TrustRank. These topics are the topics for which you receive the most spam emails.

If search engines trust your website, it is much easier to get high rankings. If you want to find out if your website has all the elements that are needed to get high rankings on Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines, analyze your website with IBP's Top 10 Optimizer.


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September 2009 search engine articles